THE KAERU KID: A mixed experience at Sundance


HELLO, SALT LAKE CITY ­— The view from the Kaeru Kid’s accommodations during his trip to Sundance. photo by the Kaeru Kid

HELLO, SALT LAKE CITY ­— The view from the Kaeru Kid’s accommodations during his trip to Sundance. photo by the Kaeru Kid
HELLO, SALT LAKE CITY ­— The view from the Kaeru Kid’s accommodations during his trip to Sundance. photo by the Kaeru Kid

Attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah was high on my bucket list. The nonprofit organization promotes independent films, documentaries and short films during the annual festival, which runs for 10 days in January. Many films have garnered Oscar nominations, including some winners. It began in 1978 with Robert Redford as one of its founders. It has become so popular that more than 40,000 people now attend it, and venues have spread to Salt Lake City and Ogden.

I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to attend a few years back, but those who wish to visit should make plans a year in advance, because tickets to the most coveted shows and events, as well as lodging, sell-out.

Fortunately, however, I am a member of the Affordable Travel Club  that I have written about before. A member living in Park City welcomed me to his home. He used to be a music teacher in Salt Lake City and built his custom home when prices were still reasonable. They have a gorgeous view of the valley.

photo by the Kaeru Kid

In the morning when I was going to drive down to the main street of Park City, a moose was standing in the road. Main Street has not changed much since my visits beginning in the late ‘60s on ski trips; however, everywhere else in the surrounding area has bloomed with huge modern expensive homes reflecting affluent owners.

Parking downtown during the festival is limited, so free shuttles are provided. I was early and found a coveted space in a public lot. The most hyped shows had long waiting lines for last-minute tickets, so I just bought tickets to less publicized ones to experience the festival. The festival organizers have a decidedly liberal bent to the movie selection. I had tickets to the Egyptian Theater to see “Citizen Koch,” which alludes to the classic “Citizen Kane.” This documentary depicted the Koch Brothers and their millions of dollars used to defeat the recall of the Wisconsin governor and to successfully defeat union organizations. Interestingly, major funding came from a Kickstarter campaign. I rated it two of four stars.

The other tickets were for later in the afternoon and evening in Salt Lake City at the Library Center Theatre. Two were foreign entries titled “Il Futuro” and “Wajma (An Afghan Love Story).” You can Google these titles to find their plot and ratings. Reading these plots now make them sound more interesting than when I viewed them. I again rated them two of four stars, with “Wajma” perhaps slightly better. A Canadian entry, “The Meteor,” was my lowest rated movie. When I heard there were some 10,000 entries and only 200 selected, I shuddered to think about the quality of the ones rejected.

Salt Lake City has many interesting sites, the most noteworthy being Temple Square, but I had been here many times in the past, so I skipped it. Things have changed as far as liquor sales, as evidenced by a microbrewery located only a few blocks away from the square. I was previously a judge of the Nevada Kansas City BBQ contest and remembered the Nevada winner was Q4U from Salt Lake City, but discovered it was located out in a distant suburb. It has since closed and become a food truck.

Checking Yelp, a highly recommended place was Pat’s Barbecue that was filmed by Guy Fieri. After eating there, I cannot add my recommendation. I also ate at The Copper Onion, which is located next door to the Center Theater. It was more for convenience than seeking gourmet fare.

Asian faces at this festival were as common as snow in Las Vegas.

At least I was able to scratch off another bucket list item.

The next Sundance Film Festival will take place Jan. 21-31, 2016. For complete information, including how to obtain last minute tickets, visit

The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Las Vegas Tidbits

The Las Vegas Review-Journal (known to locals as the RJ) conducts an annual “Best of Las Vegas” list that supposedly counts readers votes, and includes a staff pick. They list restaurants, entertainment, personal services, hotels and casinos and just about anything one can think of. Wall plaques and banners are often found at winners’ establishment.
Be aware that many of the listed winners are suspect. For example, best videopoker is listed as Harrah’s. I could not find the RJ staff pick. Most knowledgeable players will tell you that there is no good place for videopoker on the Strip and that Harrah’s is considered the worst.

The listing for the best Japanese food is Yellowtail at the Bellagio, but the chef isn’t even Japanese.  The food is good, but not even close to being the best.

The RJ staff pick is teppanyaki (Japanese food cooked on an iron griddle) at Ohjah Japanese Steakhouse, and again, most of their workers aren’t Japanese. Their food is average at best.

Their readers’ sushi selection was Social House at The Shops at Crystals and the staff pick Zenshin. Again, there are much better places. The bottomline is, don’t pay attention to this list, and whenever you enter someplace proudly claiming they are the “best,” take it with a large dose of salt.

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